Scrivener: Something Old, Something New
You know what perhaps the most amazing thing about Scrivener is? Just how feature-rich it is. You know what the most frustrating thing about using Scrivener is? Forgetting just how feature-rich it is.
I’ve found myself at something of an impasse, lately, getting restless with the structure of my novel. Specifically, I found that the word counts for the individual chapters of my novel weren’t weighing in at very good sizes. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,750 to 2,500 words each. To me, that wasn’t really cutting it. So I merged them, by threes, achieving word counts nearer to 5,500 to 7,500 words per chapter.
But in so doing, I discovered something — all of the careful plotting I had done for the synposis of each chapter was now sort of all… muddled up in the index card synopses. Well, I’m not happy with that, entirely, either. I liked the focus I had when each chapter had a distinct synopsis (and boy, am I having trouble with muscle memory getting the word ‘synopsis’ right… sorry, I digress.)
And, stewing over this dilemma, it hit me. I forgot the most basic advantage of Scrivener over every other writing application I’ve ever used: The ability to break long works into smaller chunks. So why not break the chapters back down into their component scenes?
It’s amazing how someone as smart as I am can (very, very rarely) be so dumb. The moral of the story, children, is: Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees.
On a somewhat related note, I’ve discovered a problem in my writing that another very basic Scrivener feature lets me solve: Narrative and dialogue speech style.
Because my novel is being written in a first person narrative style, a la the greats of hardboiled detective fiction — in particular, Mickey Spillane’s “Mike Hammer” stories — I have to not only keep the “speaking voices” of characters distinctive and consistent; I have to do the same thing with the voice of the narrator throughout the novel. But what happens when you take a break, be it long or short, from that narrator’s voice? There’s a chance you can lose that voice.
How does one of Scrivener’s very basic features enable me to mitigate and correct that problem? The split-pane feature of the editor. By letting me refer to the beginning of the novel, where that voice was established, and compare it to what comes later, I can always check my current narrator’s voice against the baseline I established at the beginning, and keep my narrator true to his form.
So there’s today’s musing, and I think it’s just as important for seasoned Scrivener users as it is for the novices. Remember — no matter what new and esoteric feature you discover today, don’t forget the fundamentals, and don’t be afraid to try them as solutions to new obstacles you encounter in your writing path. Sometimes the answer to that frustrating writing puzzle has actually been with you all along.
Until next time, please remember to support this blog; do good work, and be good to yourselves and each other.